Local Business Spotlight

Catalpa Flower Farm
Where the Flowers Bloom
By Kimberly Allen

Catalpa Flower Farm is manifestation of the vision that Lindsey McDonnell has nurtured for 5 years that occurred to her during a moment of serendipity. She was transitioning out of her eight year business partnership with Kreimhild Dairy where she did the bookkeeping and assisted the company in the packaging, marketing and distribution of their European style grass fed butter and crème fraiche into larger markets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and high end res- taurants. She was contemplating what her next move should be.

“I was taking a walk in my neighborhood in Tipperary Hill in Syracuse trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” reflected Lindsey. “I have always loved flowers and plants and garden- ing. I am a Forestry Alumni (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry), and I had also worked for Cooperative Extension and I was a big propo- nent of the local food systems. I was going on this walk doing this deep thinking trying to figure out next steps and I knew I loved the idea of farming.”

Thomas Merton has said, “Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be.”

Lindsey continues, “I walked in front of this cute, charming greenhouse, I had never seen before on all my walks, that stopped me in my tracks.” The wheels began churning and her mind quickly moved to flower farming. “All in the same moment across the street was this beauti- ful Catalpa Tree. They have heart shaped leaves and they bloom on Father’s Day.” Her plan crystal- lized in that moment. “I am going into flower farming and the name will be Catalpa Flower Farm. It was a big risk. I had never done farming in my life.”

Lindsey started the Catalpa Small Business Enterprises LLC, which felt like “a big starship of what Catalpa could be.” She levied the risk of starting a new business by doing what she already knew well, and acquired clients who needed bookkeeping services, and also assistance with managing their businesses in terms of marketing, sales and product. She reached out to Al- lan Gandelman at Main Street Farms who needed a bookkeeper for his new hemp company and asked if she could grow on a plot of his land. He agreed and with a box of seeds from her uncle-in- law, her flower farming began. Lindsey focused on maintaining stability and slow growth. She sold her flowers at a stall she maintained with a colleague at the Salt City Market, up until recently, aptly named Juice and Flowers. She moved her flower growing to her present location last spring, “after tinkering in the greenhouses for a few years” and then this fall, five years into her new enterprise (keeping the star- ship metaphor) she decided to purchase the farm.

When one drives into Catalpa Flower Farm, the imprint and relics of businesses past are noticeable. The wooden frames of the green houses that was the beloved Smith Gardens for decades are deteriorating and the plastic gone. The wooden scaffolds used for the aquaponic system used by organic farmers Main Street Farms remain unneeded. “When you look out at that win- dow it is in transition, it was left wild and it looks pretty wild and rundown. That would constantly overwhelm me and cause a lot of stress. Somehow that went away when I bought the place. There is something about owning it that felt so much better and different.”

What Lindsey McDonnell saw was the opportunity and potential the farm offered to grow her own vision and join the legacy of the place that with it’s history that “feels like community.” She used her intention and energy economically by removing only what was needed to reclaim the space she needed in the greenhouse, the high tunnels and the grounds; and then she put effort into rebuilding the soil and the needed structure to grow her flowers. Nearby towering Japanese Knotweed, an invasive species, now relegated to the sides of one of the high tunnels, seem to peer with curiosity at the transformation.

On this day, the day before Mother’s Days, Lindsey’s Farm- stand is open with an array of specialty cut flower bouquets, houseplants and teas. A walk of her place on another day reveals snapdragons, larkspur, scabioia, bachelor button, calendula, chocolate lace flower, ranuncu- lus, straw flower, cress, yarrow and ornamental grasses. She is also growing peonies, sunflowers, zinnias, ageratum, eucalyptus, amaranth, gomphrena and rudbeckia. Her dog Daisy is the official greeter.

Catapla Flower Farm offers an array of services. “This sum- mer we will have flowers that people can pick up and have for the weekend to brighten up their home. There are also buckets of flowers available for a do it yourself wedding or to decorate an event or BBQ.” People can expect to see varieties of flow- ers different than you might see in a grocery store. A flower CSA (Community Sponsored Agri- culture.) which offers a share seasonally is also available. Lindsey is also designing for weddings, and sells wholesale to a local florist.

Lindsey grows all the flowers she uses. If she needs to order more for a wedding or to supplement a CSA she orders from other local flower farmers; flowers like “gorgeous dahlias” from Wild Flower Creek Farm and “fringed” tulips from Forrest Ridge Farm. In fact, there is support network of local flower farmers that share an Instagram page. “If someone has extra flowers they need to move, or have a bride looking to book a wedding they can’t cover, it is shared on the page.”

Lindsey has trained with renown Erin Benzakein, of Floret Flower Farm, considered to be the “biggest influence on bring- ing back local flowers growers, after legislation in the 1970’s that made it easier to import flowers, decimated the local farm produc- tion.” Lindsey is also a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers which has “fantastic resources” that educate, support and connect flower growers.

Lindsey has continued working remotely with clients around the United States, helping people grow and manage their agricultural business now for a company called Kitchen Table Consultants. There is a nice synergy between what she is learning and what she teaches. But she will say, “Flowers is my first business. First thing in the morning, the last thing at night.”

“There is nothing more gratifying than planting in a soft bed, or weeding after a heavy rain. I love creating something out of nothing and watch it have its own life and grow into some- thing and evolve. I love cutting native flowers and the joy of peo- ple who have an experience with them. There is an exchange.” Think of someone giving you a bouquet of flowers whose scent recalls the lingering memory of your grandmother’s perfume.

At home at Catapla Flower Farm, Lindsey is in her element, her dream now a reality. Her own farm, farmhouse and “se- cret garden” of flowers abundant with possibilities. “Flowers are scientifically incredible. I love their scent. And they inspire wonder.”

Opening June 2nd
Farmstand at Catapla Flower Farm
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 7 am – 6 pm
116 N. (West 281)
Homer, NY

Learn more about weddingservices and Lindsey’s CSA at:

www. catalpaflowerfarm.com

Site Designed by Eves Digital